New federal drug laws could make thousands of native and common garden plants illegal.
The proposed legislation will place common plants under schedule II of the drug code along with plants such as marijuana and opium poppies.
The most worrying aspect of the legislation is the sheer number of plant species that will be made illegal.
Many of the substances produced by the plants are already illegal to manufacture or consume. However, there is not any significant market for making drugs from these plants and they are not sold or produced by organised crime.
Many of the targeted plants have been used for medicinal or religious purposes in the past.
For example, ayahuasca, which is made from a mixture of plants that contain the hallucinogen DMT, has been used for generations in the Amazon.
DMT is found in thousands of species of plants and is even produced in animals, including in the human brain.
Cactuses containing mescaline have also been used for religious purposes throughout North and South America.
Many Australian native plants contain high amounts of DMT, including some species of wattle and some species of phalaris grass (found in most garden lawns).
The new laws could mean that most landowners will unwittingly have a “harvestable amount” of banned plants.
It is also worrying that several endangered species of wattle will be included on the list.
It is very unlikely that anyone would try to eradicate these rare species from the wild. But the laws will make it very difficult for horticulturalists to help preserve the species.
The new law proposes to ban all plants of the genus Lophophora (or peyote cactus) even though only some of these cactuses contain mescaline.
Brugmansia and Datura (also known as Angel’s trumpet or Devil’s trumpet) are common garden plants and feature in many botanical gardens.
These plants are rarely consumed as drugs due to their extremely unpleasant and long-lasting effects.
Ephedra is derived from a herb commonly used in Chinese medicine. It was the basis for pharmaceutical drugs such as ephedrine, pseudo-ephedrine and phenylephrine.
These herbs can, in theory, be used to make amphetamines. But in reality, pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers create the drugs in laboratories
Khat contains cathinone — a natural stimulant considered less addictive than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
[Submissions on the proposed plant bans end on March 11.]